Drone wars: The United States in January reportedly offered to give Pakistan advanced notice of drone strikes and implement new limits on the types of targets, in an effort to protect the program from being shut down by Pakistan (AP). Pakistan rejected both concessions, further straining an already damaged bilateral relationship. A CNN piece drawing on the New America Foundation's study of drone strikes in Pakistan shows a sharp decline in drone attacks in 2012 (CNN). U.S. President Barack Obama met with Pakistani Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani on Tuesday on the sidelines of an international nuclear summit in Seoul, telling Gilani he hopes the Pakistani parliament's review of ties with the United States is "balanced" and respects the U.S. need to "battle terrorists who have targeted us in the past (Reuters, AFP, CNN, AP).
Pakistan's Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) declared a day of mourning Tuesday for an MQM member who was murdered in his home in Karachi, sparking raucous protests across the city in which a reported six people have so far been shot to death, eight injured, and over 25 vehicles set alight (ET, Dawn, The News). In a separate incident, two Hazara men were shot dead by unidentified gunmen in Quetta on Monday (ET).
The Supreme Court of Pakistan on Monday declined to make a decision on the alleged forced conversion of Rinkel Kumari, giving Kumari three weeks in protective custody to make a decision on her own fate. (NYT, ET, Dawn). Kumari is a 19-year-old Hindu woman who left home in February to convert to Islam and marry neighbor Naveed Shah, though her family and other Hindu community members have alleged that she was abducted from her home at gunpoint and forced to convert to Islam against her will.
As Pakistan continues to struggle through an acute energy crisis, many residents who can afford it are investing in solar panels to address the issue that voters say is their primary concern, second even to the campaign against al-Qaeda and the Taliban (AFP). Protesters in Lahore continued to block roads and burn tires on Tuesday to demonstrate against government-scheduled power outages designed to conserve fuel (ET, DT, The News).
Afghan security officials seized 11 suicide vests from three rooms at the Ministry of Defense in Kabul and arrested 16 suspects - reportedly including some Afghan soldiers -- foiling a plot they said would have caused massive loss of life (BBC, AJE). In addition to the two British soldiers killed Monday in Helmand by an Afghan in a military uniform, an American soldier was killed separately in Paktika Province by a man believed to be part of a local security force supported by the United States in an effort to fight the Taliban (AP, CNN, WSJ, AFP, Reuters, NYT).
The U.S. government is facing increased pressure at home to end the conflict in Afghanistan, as the latest New York Times/CBS poll reveals that 69 percent of respondents are opposed to the war, up from 53 percent just four months ago (NYT).
Deputy governor of the bank of Afghanistan, Khan Afzai Hadawai, tells CNN that about $4.5 billion was moved out of Afghanistan through Kabul Airport in 2011, while a further $8 billion was carried out by car, private jets, and people on foot (CNN). The AP's Johanna Decorse and Kathy Gannon report on French shooting suspect Mohammed Merah's difficult childhood, journeys to Afghanistan, and handling of French intelligence agents' suspicion before his murders of seven French citizens (AP).
Dining with nature
Pakistan's Capital Development Authority (CDA) plans to build a food park in the Kaleenjar Valley at the base of the Margalla Hills outside Islamabad, in the protected Margalla Hills National Park (ET). A CDA official assured those worried about the environmental impact that the food huts would be made from natural materials, and "would in fact enrich the valley's beauty by giving it a rustic look.
-- Jennifer Rowland